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Members of Etan Patz retrial jury knew previous jurors were attending

Previous jurors (L-R) Cyndi Cueto, Jennifer O'Connor, Tyrell

Previous jurors (L-R) Cyndi Cueto, Jennifer O'Connor, Tyrell Martori, and CJ Holm speak with reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict in the trial of Pedro Hernandez for the murder of Etan Patz, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Outside Manhattan Supreme Court after Tuesday’s guilty verdict in the Etan Patz retrial, juror Michael Castellon embraced a juror who voted to convict Pedro Hernandez in his first trial, and revealed that jurors in the retrial knew members of the earlier panel were attending.

Castellon hugged Jennifer O’Connor, a juror who became close to the Patz family and advised prosecutors after the first trial ended with an 11-1 deadlock for conviction. The two said they’d have to talk to compare experiences.

O’Connor was then asked by reporters how Castellon knew her. She said they didn’t know each other, but he may have seen her watching at an earlier news conference and figured out who she was when he saw the media questioning her.

Castellon, standing to the side, was asked about her explanation. He said court officers had told the jury that members of the earlier panel — who frequently sat with Etan’s father — were attending the retrial.

Castellon, who identified himself as a construction lawyer in jury selection, then asked twice that his words not be reported. Told they would be, he said, “I take that back.” He then left.

Told of the conversation, Harvey Fishbein, Hernandez’s lawyer, declined to comment.

“We were under a restriction that they shouldn’t even know that there was a first trial,” he said. “We were required to call it a prior proceeding. For jurors to know that not only was there a prior trial but that prior jurors were in the courtroom was information the judge did not want the jury to have.”

A spokeswoman for District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office declined to comment.

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